China Mieville is 11 days older than me. 11 days more in which he’s managed to write numerous successful novels, win loads of awards and become the poster boy of genre fiction. Even if I didn’t sleep in the next two weeks I’d never be able to beat that. If there was a scorecard labelled “Genre writer career”, he’d be miles ahead of me on points.
It’s very easy, as a writer, to look at the careers of others and compare. And it’s very easy for that green-eyed monster to raise its head.
I think if you never compare your career to another you’d be lieing. It’s part of human nature. No matter who you are, there are always other writers who have done more, achieved more, written greater stories. The trick is to realise that envy is one thing, jealousy is another.
I received a great bit of advice when I first started to take my fiction writing seriously. Jay Lake told me not to compare, that all careers are different and that, essentially, there is no scorecard except for the one you fabricate. It was great advice.
I’m genuinely pleased whenever anyone, be they a friend or someone 11 days older than me, does well. Their success has no real impact on mine. That doesn’t stop me hating the end of The City & The City, or genuinely loving some of the writing in Iron Council. Hating someone’s work out of pure jealousy does not improve the quality of mine.
Jealousy gives such a narrow filter on the world and it’s rife within writing circles, which is a shame. It should be guarded against.